Friday, January 31, 2014

Pre-Production AFTER Production?

Something that has been stressed upon my introduction to After Effects is the importance of planning. Trying to create a project that you haven’t actually planned out proves especially frustrating when it comes to animation. I’ll elaborate. Anyone can take a camera out and shoot some footage of whatever happens to be convenient. In this case, let’s say you shot 2 minutes of a man sleeping on the bus. While editing your footage, you realize that a shot of a bus driver would really tie everything together. So, the next day, you film the bus driver, insert pieces of the clip throughout your sleeping man footage, throw on a black and white filter and Viola! You’ve successfully created an incredibly deep cinema film in less than 48 hours. 

Now let’s imagine you’re an animator. First of all, recreating the shot of the sleeping man through animation would take even the best animators hours upon hours to recreate— regardless of whether they use digital tools or not. Oh, now you want to add a shot of a bus driver? Ok, that means spending hours upon hours recreating THAT scene, hours upon hours repositioning the original animation to allow room for the new animation, a couple dozen hours trying to figure out why your sleeping man keeps flipping upside-down 5 frames in and— oops. Looks like you not only missed your project deadline, but also the birth of your firstborn son and 3 Super Bowls. 

In short, preproduction is an essential element of animation.

One of the most common documents associated with animation is the storyboard. Traditionally, filmmakers/animators create a storyboard before they move on to the actual shooting/animating. 

Here are some examples of storyboards from some of the most famous scenes in movie history:

Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock

In all of the above examples, the storyboard acted as the blueprint for each scene. However, I recently stumbled upon an animated film that strayed from the traditional production timeline. Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir is an animated documentary film depicting Folman’s experience as a soldier in the 1982 Lebanon War. Often times when it comes to documentaries storyboarding is left out completely. This of course makes sense considering the uncertain/candid nature of the genre. Still, Waltz with Bashir is not just a documentary, it’s an animated documentary. Therefore, the 90 minute movie was filmed in a sound studio and then transferred to a storyboard. I’m sure that the unconventional production timeline  of Waltz with Bashir is the real reason the film was banned in Lebanon. 

Alright, I’m going to be honest— all of that “storyboard” talk was really just a way for me to gracefully (hah) transition into talking about how Waltz with Bashir was animated. Many people initially assume that the movie was made through rotoscoping, or the animation style that uses drawings over live footage to create realistic animation. These people are wrong. “Waltz with Bashir” is actually a combination of Adobe Flash cutouts and classic animation. Each drawing was sliced into hundreds of pieces which were moved in relation to one another, thus creating the illusion of movement. This technique is a unique style invented by Yoni Goodman at the Bridgit Folman Film Gang studio in Israel.

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